The speech made by Robbie Moore, the Conservative MP for Keighley, in the House of Commons on 27 May 2021.
The challenge of obesity has of course been magnified by the last year’s events, and the evidence is clear, as ever, about the importance of having a healthy lifestyle and eating well. I welcome the national food strategy’s putting a better food system at the heart of the covid-19 recovery. It is worrying that one in three children who leave primary school is overweight and one in five is obese. It is crucial to rethink the food that young people are being given, and the right education is the key to the answer.
I recently met and had a great discussion with Ruth Hall, a constituent in Addingham and a former home economics teacher, about ensuring that people know how to prepare healthy food. She showed me her old lessons plans, which included guidance on making nutritious meals at an affordable price. The people she taught over her 36 years as a teacher were given the right skills to cook, and I am sure their children are better informed about healthier eating.
I worry that home economics as a subject for all at an early age in our schools is now lost, and I fear that a generation have now missed out on acquiring these skills, which I believe is a key reason for the worrying statistics I have mentioned. It is therefore vital for the Government to act to make sure that young people are equipped with the adequate training on and knowledge of nutrition and how to cook a decent meal—a decent, wholesome meal.
There is a much wider discussion to be had about where people’s food comes from. I regularly speak to farmers and those working in the food production sector, who are frustrated by the lack of knowledge about that nationally in the wider population. It needs to be at the heart of our good food strategy. The Government’s intentions to change how food is advertised, displayed and promoted in shops will undoubtedly create purchase behavioural change, but I am yet to be totally reassured of the absolute benefits that will have.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter) and the Minister have said, there is no silver bullet. However, of course, in this place we cannot ignore the fact that this issue disproportionately affects those in deprived communities. Currently, children in those communities are twice as likely to be obese than those in less deprived areas. That must be addressed. I am pleased that the Government have pledged to halve childhood obesity and close that gap by 2030, but our approach cannot just be Government-centred; communities must be key, active players, and parents must take more responsibility for what they feed their children and the consequences of that. Of course, that loops back to education.
I know that the NHS long-term plan has ring-fenced £4.5 billion to help local GPs, pharmacists and others deal with issues such as obesity, but I am sure that home economics, food nutrition, and teaching children and parents how to cook good, wholesome food will be a great start.